American leaders are furious with Pakistan's military in the wake of Osama bin Laden's killing. But twisting arms will only backfire.
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"Overthe years, I've repeatedly made clear that we would take action within Pakistanif we knew where bin Laden was. That is what we've done. But it's important tonote that our counterterrorism cooperation with Pakistan helped lead us to binLaden and the compound where he was hiding. Indeed, bin Laden had declared waragainst Pakistanas well, and ordered attacks against the Pakistani people."
Withthose words, PresidentBarack Obama acknowledged Pakistan'srole in the killing of Osama bin Laden in Abbottabad, a military cantonment, ina house that lay half a mile or so from the Pakistan MilitaryAcademy. It isunclear why, if Pakistani intelligence had the leads, it would not or could notfollow up itself and do the job.
Ata time when United States-Pakistan relations are going south in a hurry overaid, Afghanistan, and U.S. intelligence operations inside Pakistan, bin Laden'sdeath leaves more questions on the table than answers. How could four U.S.helicopters operate some 120 miles inside Pakistani territory and three of themexit without being detected? Were they allowed to do so? And by whom? Or was itPakistan's inability tointercept them that allowed the U.S.raid to proceed without a hitch? Clearly the civilian government was firstinformed when President Obama spoke with President Asif Ali Zardari after theoperation was over. If Zardari's military was in the know, and he was not, thisspeaks volumes about the internal distrust within Pakistan's establishment. So far,it appears the United States kept the Pakistan military in the dark. What maybe more troubling for the U.S.side is the likelihood that elements of the Pakistani establishment were awareof bin Laden's presence in Abbottabad and kept it hidden. However remote apossibility this may seem, this question will be asked in Washington D.C.in the weeks to come.
Americanboots on the ground are much more serious in terms of invasion of Pakistan'sterritory and disregard for its sovereignty than the remote drone attacks thathave so angered Pakistani officials and politicians lately. The Pakistanimilitary's official reaction to the death of bin Laden will be telling. If thisoperation was carried out in close cooperation with the United States,then the trajectory of this declining relationship may be reversed. If not,then the velocity of the decline will increase at a time when the mood in Washingtonseems to be shifting to black toward Pakistan, on the Hill and also inparts of the Obama administration.
TheStrategic Dialogue that was bringing the UnitedStates and Pakistan to the table to focus oncommon objectives has been suspended for now. Both sides are attempting torevive the relationship after the imbroglio over Raymond Davis and the C.I.A.'soperations inside Pakistan.The Pakistanis demand respect. So does the United States. Neither side shouldtry to pull a fast one over the other. They are codependent in the fightagainst militancy and terror: the United States in trying to exit Afghanistanin an orderly fashion, Pakistan in trying to contain its internal insurgencies.The stakes may be higher for Pakistansince it remains captive of its geography and heavily tied to the U.S. aidprogram and the Coalition Support Funds that sustain its battles against thePakistani Taliban. It may be a bad marriage, once again, but not one thataffords an easy divorce. Perhaps a separation, followed by reconciliation?
BothPakistan and the U.S. should becareful to keep the tone of public rhetoric down and continue the privatedialogues that may yet yield agreement on common objectives. Pakistan needs U.S.help to create the stability inside Pakistan that will allow it tofight the immediate war on poverty and underdevelopment. Faced with a risingpopulation and an ever present youth bulge, Pakistan needs to begin to governitself better, think long term, and eschew factional politics. Its militaryneeds the tools and the time to keep the militancy at bay but it also needsclose cooperation with the civilian agencies to help it fight against terrorismin its multifarious forms inside Pakistan.
Osamabin Laden's death may exacerbate the terrorist conditions inside Pakistan forthe short run. Followers and sympathizers of al-Qaeda may well try to seekrevenge against U.S.interests and the Pakistani state. But the death of al-Qaeda's founder shouldnot change the course that Pakistanis following to battle militancy at home and needs to follow in itsneighborhood. Nor should the UnitedStates pack up and summarily exit theregional stage once more.
Shuja Nawaz, theauthor of Crossed Swords: Pakistan, its Army, and the Wars Within,directs the South Asia Centerat the Atlantic Council.
Even as the recently released tell-all Obama's Wars by Bob Woodward raises fresh doubts about the U.S.-Pakistan relationship and will likely stoke mistrust in the United States about Pakistan as a partner against the Afghan Taliban, a series of stories that paint the Pakistani army in a negative light will undoubtedly contribute to the tensions. These events occur against the backdrop of heightened U.S. drone activity inside Pakistan's border region and at least two reported NATO helicopter attacks on Pakistani soil. How the Pakistani army sees these events and addresses the ensuing challenges will have enormous impacts on the future trajectory of South Asia, as well as the direction of Pakistan's fragile democracy.
First, there was the reported kidnapping of The News journalist Umar Cheema and the standard operating procedures of Pakistani intelligence agencies used to humiliate and torture him, according to his detailed account of the incident. Other than denials, there does not appear to be a clear or detailed explanation from the government or the Inter Services Intelligence directorate, Pakistan's top spy agency, of who did this, nor any indication from the government that a rapid and credible public inquiry is underway. In the absence of such actions, rumors will fly and allegations will be made that will undermine the state and its agencies.
Second, there has been a new viral video released on the Internet purporting to be a record of extrajudicial killing of blindfolded Pashtun captives in civilian clothes by Urdu-speaking (that is, non-Pashtun) soldiers in army uniforms and carrying standard army weapons. The presence of a senior person identified in the soundtrack as "Tanveer Sahib" may implicate an officer in this incident. According to the New York Times, the Pakistani military initially dismissed the video as a forgery. The Times later reported that the army had investigated the incident, found it to be genuine, and promised to act against the perpetrators.
Fairly or not, this video and other negative stories about the army's operations and its behind-the-scenes role in Pakistani politics will likely be seen within Pakistan as coordinated and hostile actions from outside Pakistan to put pressure on the Pakistan army to bend to U.S. demands on a number of fronts. The army's readiness to move against the elements involved in these killings speaks to its new and informed leadership. Similar reports of extrajudicial killings in East Pakistan, now Bangladesh, in 1971 were brushed aside by the army at that time. They lost the hearts and minds of the local population, fuelled an insurgency, and created a refugee stream into India that drew that country into invading East Pakistan to help create Bangladesh. By contrast, in June 1992, an incident in Sindh province earlier described by the army in Sindh as an "encounter" with local robbers was openly investigated by the army high command, following a BBC report of killings by an army major as a favor to a local landlord. The major was court-martialed and sentenced to death. Senior officers who failed to investigate the incident adequately and participated in covering it up were removed or dismissed to much public acclaim. The army's stock went up in the public eye.
The current army chief, Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, will need to confront this latest allegation head-on and quickly rather than let it simmer and adversely affect public support for the military as well as morale inside the institution. If a "rogue officer" was at work giving his troops an unlawful command to murder civilian prisoners, then the army needs to clear it up in a manner that will identify and bring to court the culprits and help educate the rest of its officers and troops against similar actions. At a time when the civilian government is under stress and economic and political problems have besieged it, it is important that the army is seen as a stable entity working with the government for the common good.
General Kayani also faces a challenge on the border from the U.S. and NATO. A first incursion into Pakistan seemed to have been handled quickly by him and Adm. Mike Mullen to reduce unhappiness on the Pakistan side. They spoke and decided not to add to the public rhetoric. But now an additional incident in Kurram involving a NATO helicopter attack that reportedly killed three soldiers of the Frontier Corps, the paramilitary force that patrols the tribal areas, has led to the closing of the border to NATO supplies for Afghanistan and a public rebuke from the government of Pakistan.
This situation could easily careen out of control. The Obama administration, which is unhappy with what it perceives as Pakistan's lack of action against anti-American militants, is seriously miscalculating if it is using such tactics to pressure Pakistan to launch operations against its will. Better to argue your case behind closed doors, as allies should -- or risk a public split. Similarly, Pakistan risks overestimating its leverage over the United States and NATO by shutting down the coalition's supply routes across the Durand Line. If anything, this embargo will accelerate the U.S. drive to diversify its logistics chain -- while taking money out of Pakistanis' pockets.
There is some positive news. On Thursday, Kayani announced a fresh list of newly promoted three-star generals, completing his team of senior officers who will outlast his own new three-year term at the helm of the army. By all accounts, he has chosen tried and tested professionals and superseded some Musharraf loyalists. As with the lieutenant generals promoted in April, he has by and large selected apolitical and professional soldiers with a broad, mature view of the world and of Pakistan's place in it. Many of them have topped their classes at the military academy, winning the Sword of Honour, or have attended advanced military courses abroad, as has Kayani. Here's hoping they get their chance to prove that Pakistani's military can be a force for stability in South Asia, and a voice for the rule of law at home.
Shuja Nawaz is director of the South Asia Center at the Atlantic Council and author of Crossed Swords: Pakistan, its Army, and the Wars Within and Pakistan in the Danger Zone: A Tenuous U.S.-Pakistan Relationship.
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"Today, God has given me the opportunity to set the tone for my political legacy. Come join me in changing Pakistan's destiny. It is not an easy task but one we must work for, as Pakistan is ours. ‘All Pakistan Muslim League' is our platform from where I will work tirelessly to serve Pakistan and bring back national unity-Pakistan First." With those words on one of his Facebook pages, as promised, former Pakistani president General Pervez Musharraf appears to have launched his new political party out of London. Clearly, he is attuned to the technology of today. But is he attuned to Pakistan?
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In a timely though perhaps overly dramatic move, Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani of Pakistan announced last night on national television the extension of army chief General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani for another three years beyond November this year, when his first term was to end. Timely, since any further delay in announcing it would have led to further speculation and confusion about what was to happen. Dramatic, since the normal manner would have been a press release from the Inter Services Relations Directorate.
But then this is Pakistan and anything to do with the army chief makes headlines. And this announcement further strengthens the view that the army continues to be a key player even as democracy struggles to establish itself in a country that has been ruled for more than half its life by the military.
This is the first time a civilian government has extended an army chief for a full term.
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President Obama's decision to replace General Stanley McChrystal with Centcom commander General David Petraeus has unleashed a tidal wave of commentary, with expectations that the second coming of Petraeus will yield results in Afghanistan that perhaps were unattainable before.
Nothing could be further from reality.
Indeed, the underlying situation in Afghanistan and -- don't forget -- Pakistan remains fraught. And the new commander in Afghanistan faces the same uphill task, unless he can change the basic parameters of U.S. plans for the region and the cross-border battle scenario.
If Petraeus can persuade the president to delay or even eliminate the July 2011 deadline for the beginning of withdrawal, build a military-civilian partnership in Kabul that replicates his relationship with Ambassador Ryan Crocker in Baghdad, and cajole his Pakistani partners into denying the Taliban the freedom of movement they now possess in Baluchistan and parts of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas, Petraeus may be able to effect an eventual U.S. withdrawal from fighting in Afghanistan.
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By Shuja Nawaz
Even in its waning days, 2009 continues to be a ‘Year of Decision' in Pakistan, as its fractured polity struggles to right the ship of state while tackling the rising insurgencies inside its borders. This was the year that Pakistan took the battle to the insurgency, first in Swat and Malakand and then into the heart of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas. The Pakistan Army's decisive actions in South Waziristan deprived the Tehreek-e-Taliban of Pakistan of its tribal base in Mehsud territory. Public sentiment against the violent insurgency helped the military's decision to take the battle to the TTP's home turf. And although the TTP's leadership has apparently escaped into adjoining areas, the logistical heart of the insurgency was damaged. The militants retaliated by stepping up attacks on soft targets inside Pakistan, attacking mosques and markets alike, killing innocent civilians and children.
On the economic front, after decades of wrangling about revenue sharing between the provinces, the National Finance Commission under former Citibanker Finance Minister Shaukat Tarin produced an agreement on a new formula that increased the share of Baluchistan and rearranged the shares of other provinces in a more equitable manner. The NFC award will help reduce the centrifugal forces that threaten the federation.
Then, on December 16, 2009, the Supreme Court of Pakistan overturned the infamous National Reconciliation Ordinance under which former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto and her husband Asif Ali Zardari could return to Pakistan, having been absolved, along with thousands of other beneficiaries, of all past crimes and misdemeanors, real or imagined. Then-President Gen. Pervez Musharraf had promulgated the Ordinance on October 5, 2007 and when that was challenged by numerous petitions on the basis that it was discriminatory and favored selected individuals with whom Musharraf wished to make deals, Musharraf responded by declaring an emergency on November 3, 2007 that sent Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry and the senior judiciary packing for the second time. He then, under a Provisional Constitutional Order, forcibly inserted the NRO into the constitution of Pakistan. These actions were often referred to as Musharraf's "second coup," this time against his own government. His intent was to facilitate a return to a controlled civilian system under which he would remain president while Bhutto could return as a potential head of the government. That was not to be: Bhutto was assassinated. Musharraf was hounded out of office. Zardari became president. And the Supreme Court's Chief Justice Chaudhry was reinstated on March 16, 2009, for the second time, promising to return the judiciary to its rightful place as a key pillar of the state.
Among the key cases that were reopened by the Supreme Court was the NRO and the absolution it provided to Pakistan's tarnished political elite, including the new President Zardari. Yesterday's decision reinstates all the cases that were dismissed and significantly, directed the government to set up courts to resolve the pending cases speedily, including the revival of a bribery and corruption case in which the Government of Pakistan had been a complainant against Zardari and Bhutto in a Swiss court. Lawyers and supporters will have a field day invoking presidential immunity for Zardari. But public pressure will surely mount against him and his party as well as other politicians who have been tarred with the NRO brush.
If 2009 was the Year of Decision for Pakistan, 2010 may well be the Year of Tumult. And it could not come at a worse time. The army is still battling a vicious insurgency in the western borderland. The United States is counting on a stable Pakistan to help it exit from Afghanistan gracefully. U.S. drone attacks on the border and Taliban bombings in the hinterland alike have enraged the Pakistani populace. The army is under pressure from its U.S. allies to open a fresh front against the Afghan Taliban in Baluchistan, an action that makes no sense to the army. The roller coaster U.S.-Pakistan relationship seems heading for another deep dive, unless cooler heads prevail. Now the government faces a test of its ability to function while acceding to the Supreme Court's annulment of the NRO.
Kudos to Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani's government for choosing not to defend the NRO before the Supreme Court, nor to present it for passage as a law before parliament. And kudos to the Supreme Court for restoring the constitution to its rightful place in Pakistan's polity. But the tumult unleashed by this decision will make for a difficult transition to the rule of law, especially as opponents press for Zardari's departure. So this may be an opportunity for the untainted few among Pakistan's political leadership to take charge and for the friends of Pakistan to support them, and this is not time for business as usual nor for half-measures. Insurgencies rage, while uncertainty rules in Pakistan as it enters the New Year.
Shuja Nawaz is Director of the South Asia Center at the Atlantic Council in Washington DC.
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By Shuja Nawaz
There is no doubt about it now. This is Obama's War. He took full ownership of it last night. From the history to the conduct of operations, warts and all. He acknowledged how and why the United States went into Afghanistan, why it has stayed, and why it will leave under his timetable, with all its caveats. But to many the speech may not provide the basis for winning the war, because the objectives are still uncertain and more importantly, Obama has uncertain allies around the world and in the region. Without help from all of them, the United States alone will not be able to prosecute a successful counterinsurgency nor exit as gracefully as the president's timetable implies.
The NATO Secretary General's immediate and unequivocal statement of support notwithstanding, political Europe has been a weak reed. France and Germany need to show more resolve and invest more in this fight. It is not clear if that situation will change dramatically. The Afghan government is also weak. President Hamid Karzai will not only need to produce an effective cabinet and government machinery but also reshape the Afghan national security forces in double-quick time to allow the United States military to exit safely.
Pakistan remains a house divided: it is not clear if the powerful military that has run Afghan policy since the 1980s is as ready to sign on to the Obama strategy against the Afghan Taliban as the civilian president may be. Indeed, President Asif Ali Zardari's own political position appears tenuous as he is being forced to shed the extraordinary powers he inherited from Gen. Pervez Musharraf. Where the Pakistani Prime Minister, Yousaf Raza Gilani, stands is uncertain at best, especially without military backing. So, it is unclear who speaks for Pakistan today and it is unclear to what extent a common response has come from Pakistan's power centers to the Obama letter delivered via National Security Adviser Gen. James Jones. President Obama's veiled threat that the U.S. will not "tolerate a safe haven for terrorists whose location is known" will not resonate in the corridors of army headquarters. The Pakistan army is already overstretched in the fight against its domestic Taliban and under attack by Punjabi militant groups such as Jaish-e-Mohammed and Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, while looking over its shoulders at India's growing economic and military might and powerful presence inside Afghanistan. Till India and Pakistan come to terms with each other on the basis of common security and economic goals, Pakistan's attention will remain diverted to the east. Obama's advisers hinted at attempts to persuade India and Pakistan to desist from using Afghanistan as an area of competition. What leverage they have to effect that change is unclear.
If the United States takes unilateral action inside Pakistan, the public sentiment that has been poisoned by the drone attacks, among other things, may go against any major shift in Pakistan's position on the Afghan Taliban who take shelter in the western borderlands. For most Pakistanis, al Qaeda is a vague and distant entity. Their immediate concerns are food, energy, and internal security. The U.S. recognizes these concerns but till the government of Pakistan takes actions to resolve its internal challenges itself, no amount of aid or advice from the outside will restore stability and growth to Pakistan.
It was good to hear Obama speak directly to the people of Afghanistan and Pakistan. That message needs to be repeated often, especially to let them know that the United States will help them directly in improving their lives and will not make short-term deals with individuals or groups at the center of power. Speeding up promised aid and opening up investment opportunities and the creation of jobs in infrastructure and manufacturing Pakistan will go a long way to change the mindset of the Pakistani masses.
Al Qaeda is not a large or powerful presence in Afghanistan. The Pashtun Taliban are. Success in Afghanistan will not come from simply beating them on the battlefield. Recall that the Soviets conquered most of Afghanistan and occupied nearly every hill, many times over. Success will come from providing security to the Afghan people in a substantial portion of the Pashtun belt. Protecting the population against the insurgents by embedding forces in communities will be the key to success in the south and east, not in setting up powerful fortresses, as the Soviets discovered. And they had more troops in the country than the United States has now. Gen. Stanley McChrystal's war plan to translate the President's strategy into action will determine the extent to which he can buy time and space for the Afghans to take over this war and begin providing good governance.
The president may have bought some political time at home by giving his general the troops he sought, rapidly, and extending to next summer the increased U.S. military commitment and additional support from his allies. Will that forward movement be enough for his fellow Democrats to fend off attacks on them during the 2010 elections? And will there be results enough in 2011 to sustain his own re-election bid in 2012? The political "war plan" of "General" Rahm Emanuel for U.S. elections was clearly behind the timeline for the field operations in Afghanistan and Pakistan set by the president in his speech. He needs to win both wars decisively to buck history. But he will need a lot of help from his friends at home and abroad. An immediate test will be an unequivocal statement of support from the leadership of Afghanistan and Pakistan. Stay tuned for the silence.
Shuja Nawaz is the director of the South Asia Center at the Atlantic Council in Washington DC.